Spaceflight Insider

Russia loses contact with nanosatellite launched from Vostochny

A Soyuz 2.1a rocket roars skyward on the first launch at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East.

A Soyuz 2.1a rocket roars skyward with the Mikhailo Lomonosov (MVL-300) Aist-2D, and SamSat-218 spacecraft on the first launch at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

The tiny nanosatellite SamSat-218, which was launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome on April 28, has failed to establish radio contact with mission control, several Russian media outlets are reporting. According to Interfax news agency, although the spacecraft was placed into orbit as planned, it is sending only fragmentary signals to Earth.

SamSat-218 nanosatellite.

SamSat-218. Photo Credit: SSAU

“Currently, fragmentary Morse code signals are being heard coming from the nanosatellite, against the background of the noise during the satellite’s pass over the receiving station,” Interfax said in a press release.

SamSat-218, built by the Samara State Aerospace University (SSAU), is a two-unit CubeSat with a mass of only 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms) and an additional empty one-unit compartment for aerodynamic stabilization. The tiny spacecraft was designed to demonstrate attitude stabilization by using aerodynamic forces. It was expected to develop algorithms necessary for nanosatellite orientation control.

The nanosatellite was launched along with the Mikhailo Lomonosov (MVL-300) and Aist-2D spacecraft atop a Soyuz-2.1a rocket from Vostochny on the Cosmodrome’s opening mission. The flight, lasting several hours, ended in the separation of the satellites from the launch vehicle. However, after SamSat-218 was placed into orbit, it started to spin around rapidly and probably failed to switch on.

“There are currently no sufficient grounds to believe the nanosatellite established contact. There were fragmentary weak signals at the frequency of 145.870 MHz against a background of noises when the nanosatellite was in the area of [radio visibility] of the ground control center, which can’t be with confidence interpreted as signals from the satellite,” Igor Belokonov, the head of the SamSat-218 project told TASS.

The designers of the satellite are currently analyzing the data received in order to understand the nature of the problem and look for possible solutions.

According to Belokonov, the student mission control center of SSAU is continuing with attempts to receive signals from the satellite during passes above Samara.

The satellite is equipped with a radio beacon, which transmits the word “SamSat-218”. Russia’s radio enthusiasts are also engaged in the activities to help establish contact with the satellite when it is in the area of the antenna systems’ coverage.


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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